Sage – In Vain
20/04/2006 § Leave a comment
I don’t know about you but when I think of Sage I think about stuffing. Turkeys. Forced festivities. Any form of family celebration that necessities getting all your relatives together and pretending that you get on for more of a reason than that you just happen to share a bloodline. A lot of the time it’s difficult enough to share a dinner table with your relatives let alone a lineage. Nevertheless, you’ll be pleased to know that this particular kind of Sage, a quartet from Chicago, have little or nothing to do with Yuletide ditties, herb parcels or anything that involves you getting yourself elbow deep in poultry; and though there’s generally a hidden meaning in a lot of band’s lyrics, I can’t find anything about that kind of thing in here.
Sage already had one EP out before In Vain released itself into the female-fronted metal scene but it seems to have been digested somewhere into the intestines of obscurity. No matter though, since In Vain is a perfectly respectable offering which is noteworthy on a number of levels. The first thing that attracted me to this band is how tight their sound was – everything is spot on and to the semi-quaver, and for a band with only two EPs out, it’s not a bad accomplishment. Secondly, Tracey Sage’s vocals are uncompromisingly attractive in their gritty nature: she has a terribly strong and emotive rock voice which slots into the musical passages with thoughtless ease.
The idea of rock is quite a present one on the album since the music that Sage make is not particularly metal. More than anything the style of music here is progressive, hard rock with a dash of metal thrown in, though the slightly over-trebly guitars ensure that this stays very much in rock territory. Sage are hardly writing easy music for themselves and as experienced as I like to think I am in the realms of progressive music I have to admit to being slightly impressed with how far this band have come in such a short amount of time: some of the songs really command a lot of musical skill and proficiency to carry off successfully. The first track on the album, Manifest Destiny, with its looping, rollercoastering bass line is certainly a good example of this. Also, the tight, fast-paced Backbone begins with heavier guitars that hammer into your ears with relentless harshness and which are impressively timed with the scattered pounding of the drums. However, by far the best track on the EP is the more melodic Graves and though it’s nowhere near a ballad of a song, it does have a more mellow feel to it since a lot of Sage’s songs are quite pushy and demand attention, whereas this is the only one that lets you drift without feeling like your being bashed about too much by the music.
Still, even though In Vain does very well as a five song EP, it becomes quite hard to discriminate between the songs after a few listens – the trebly guitar gets a bit overwhelming and though Tracey has a fantastic voice and she can throw the notes out like anybody’s business, there’s no particular difference to her tones throughout the songs. Her vocal intensity remains at the same level from the first to the last note which, as a listener, doesn’t really let you become lifted and borne on the music but more harangued by the musical equivalent of a town cryer. This is In Vain’s main issue, and though the lyrics are quite personal and profound, their delivery is crying out for a more sympathetic and compassionate approach, since the loud, obtrusive way in which they’re conveyed sometimes seems a little jarring.
In spite of this, Sage are still a terribly promising band who have a great deal of potential. There is clearly a lot of talent here and I get the impression that over time this band could become even more deft and could create music of extremely high quality and power. Sage is one in a long line of bands crying out for more exposure and a full-length album would certainly not disappoint. A little more feeling and concentration on the finer details of the musical exposure could make a full-length album a very tasty offering indeed.